What House Republicans Believed, in July

Yesterday, we uncovered a document that had gone missing from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s website: a “detailed presentation of the reauthorization proposal.”  In July, House Republicans proposed spending $38.3 billion per year, covered by the revenues coming in to the Highway Trust Fund.  Their current proposal (H.R.7) would blow a massive hole in the trust fund, spending $52.6 billion per year.

Below, we walk through the previously elusive “presentation,” highlighting comments that run contrary to the current proposal.

By reducing the federal bureaucracy, eliminating waste, and cutting red tape to make infrastructure programs work better, we can do more with less. (page 1) 

Doing more with less is something every American can understand, and it is a concept every American expects their government to understand.  Unfortunately, H.R.7 tries to do more, with more.

The promise of the Trust Fund is that these fees paid by the American people when they use the transportation system will be reinvested in projects that improve their highways, bridges, and transit systems, and not spent on other unrelated federal programs.  (page 2)

This is an emphatic – and entirely appropriate – embrace of the user pays principle.  Unfortunately, H.R.7 seeks to find additional sources of revenue, most of which have no relationship to road usage, thus breaking the user pays principle.

This proposal puts the “trust” back into the Trust Fund by ensuring that the nation is not spending money it does not have and aligning transportation expenditures with revenues.  It authorizes approximately $230 billion over six years from the Highway Trust Fund — funding levels consistent with the amount of revenue being collected — and allows the Trust Fund to stay solvent well into the future.  (page 2, emphasis in original) 

H.R.7 does the exact opposite.  By design, funding levels are INCONSISTENT with the amount of revenue being collected for the Highway Trust Fund.  It is the polar opposite of the position they held just seven months ago.

As federal spending is realigned with available revenues… (page 4) 

Once again, H.R.7 does the exact opposite.  Instead of aligning federal spending with available revenue, the bill would align federal revenue with desired levels of federal spending.

Many of the programs that will be consolidated or eliminated in this proposal were created during a period when it was common to spend more than was collected in transportation revenue.  We can do more with less and create infrastructure jobs by targeting federal funding to programs and projects that have regional and national impacts and eliminating programs that do not. (page 7, emphasis mine)

In July, Chairman John Mica (R-FL) and his colleagues understood that streamlining government programs was a critical component to doing more with less.  Despite their repeated emphasis on this point, H.R.7 tries to do more with more.

The federal transit programs must do more with less.  Current program funding levels are not sustainable, and this proposal focuses on policies and programs that most effectively contribute to public  transportation services that meet the needs of commuters, transit-dependent individuals, and occasional  transit riders. (page 11) 

Interestingly, H.R.7 would create a $40 billion Alternative Transportation Account.

As you may have noticed, the main theme of the July proposal was doing more with less.  In fact, the phrase “more with less” was mentioned five times in the short presentation.  Words like leveraging, maximizing, value, and limited were scattered about another 32 times.

The authors of the July proposal understood the need for change; indeed, it was a reflection of the mandate sent by the American people in 2010 and the widely touted Ryan Budget.  Sadly, H.R.7 is a rejection of both.  If this year’s election is a referendum between two visions of America, H.R.7 falls woefully short of advancing the cause of conservatives.

(Oh, and get this: the Senate bill – S.1813 – is even worse!)

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